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Land trust gives state land to make up for lost funds

A land trust in western Wisconsin is giving more than 1,500 acres to the state to make up for $500,000 of missing public funds. The transfer of prime natural land is being hailed as a win-win for both the trust and the state.

A land trust in western Wisconsin is giving more than 1,500 acres to the state to make up for $500,000 of missing public funds. The transfer of prime natural land is being hailed as a win-win for both the trust and the state.

The West Wisconsin Land Trust is giving the state Department of Natural Resources eight parcels in Chippewa, Dunn, Pepin, Pierce, Polk and St. Croix Counties to make good on $551,000 of lost public money.

The funds were part of a federal grant given to the trust and the state to purchase land but Jane Prohaska, interim director for West Wisconsin, says that money was rolled into operating expenses instead.

"The federal grant, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant, comes with some sophisticated and complicated requirements that are appropriate for accounting for public money, but I think the systems weren't in place at Western Wisconsin Land Trust as they should have been."

Other than apologies to the DNR and the state, Prohaska says they've cleaned house and instituted a new ledger, accountant and auditor to make sure a misstep like this never happens again.

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Last week, the state Natural Resources Board voted unanimously to accept the 1,500 acres, which are appraised at more than $3-million. Board member David Clausen says the state is getting some fantastic properties that more than make up for the lost cash.

"We needed to be sure that the citizens of Wisconsin were getting their money's worth," says Clausen. "We didn't want this just to get somebody off the hook. This needed to be something that was good for the people of the state of Wisconsin."

The most prominent of the parcels is Maiden Rock. Prohaska calls it an iconic piece along the bluff lands of the Mississippi River that will be more accessible to the public under DNR ownership.

Related Topics: ENVIRONMENT
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